By now everyone knows how much I love the festive season, as I am sure you have been bombarded with my posts and countdowns 🙂 But why is this season so special to me? Growing up in Nigeria as an expat kid, the holiday season was always a very special time as a lot of families could not travel back home. The community members organized countless events from Christmas bazaars to “meets and greets” with Santa, and of course epic New Year’s Eve parties with fireworks. It is even more special to me because, while I spent 4 years of my high school in boarding school, the Christmas holiday was my favourite time to spend at home, watching Christmas movies every day with my brother … and that wonderful delight of waking up at the crack of dawn to open our Christmas presents! To us, the holiday period was always a vibrant, energetic and busy time of the year, surrounded by loved ones.
When I moved to Switzerland for university, I experienced the real charm of the festive season, signified mainly by the falling of white snowflakes, and those incredible Christmas Markets with festive specialties, hot chocolate, crepes, cinnamon scents and even real reindeer! I was very happy to experience a similar dynamic spirit in Abu Dhabi, and although my first Christmas in this country was spent with my colleagues, and New Year’s Eve was working, I was still very happy to be a part of the festive spirit. My parents have also started a wonderful tradition 5 years ago of spending every Christmas and New Year in Abu Dhabi, which makes this month all the more special for me!
The holiday season in Abu Dhabi, is indeed a special time of the year as it unites and brings everyone together, no matter their culture, nationality or religion. The streets are beautifully light with themed decorations, which stay until Orthodox Christmas in January, the malls and hotels are literally decked with “decorations”, host several types of festive events, and always surprise the kids with a visit from our friends in the North Pole.
With countless options throughout the city, here is a shortlist of my absolute favourite experiences in Abu Dhabi during the festive season:
Together with the Swiss Business Council, the hotel puts on the best Christmas market, built in a Swiss chalet style setting with over 40 different vendors. The event is centered around the Abu Dhabi community, while highlighting Swiss traditions, hospitality, and cuisine such as “raclette” and “fondue” (major flashback to my university days!). My most favourite element is the Lindt master chocolatiers, who are flown directly from Switzerland, along with delectable chocolates, not usually sold in the UAE. The event also has live entertainment by famous Swiss folk bands who perform typical songs and even Christmas carols!
The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa:
The Westin’s lawn transforms into a magical wonderland with their annual festive market and Santa chase! It’s a lovely family event where different vendors sells their handicrafts and cool activities keep the kids entertainment, like a visit from Santa, Christmas carols and of course the mandatory Gingerbread house factory.
Another one of my favourite annual events, is to spend hours at the Galleria Mall’s Christmas Village, which is so beautifully decorated, you literally feel like you are in the North Pole (except of course you have those brilliant sea views) 🙂 Every type of festive treat is available, handicrafts for sale, and the entertainment line is SUPER impressive this year!
CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTINGS
The most extravagant lighting I have ever experienced is in Emirates Palace, where the hotel decorates the largest and most impressive Christmas tree with Swarvoski crystals. The tree lighting ceremony opens with a school choir, this year it will be Brighton College, performing beautiful carols, and it even magically snows!
InterContinental Abu Dhabi:
I might be slightly biased, because I worked for the hotel and was even a member of the Christmas choir, however I absolutely love the festive spirit. The chefs do an amazing job of creating Santa’s grotto where you can purchase festive treats from Europe, which you might miss, and they always find a way to wow the crowd. I have witnessed the longest yule long, and the tallest chocolate mountain with Santa standing right on top of it in the past!
St. Regis Saadiyat Island:
The hotel’s idyllic location, nestled on a white sandy beach and overlooking the clear blue Arabian Sea, is more than enough reason to go there. The hotel turns into a winter wonderland, starting with their lobby where an elegant tree welcomes visitors. The lounge is filled with treats, and I am convinced during this holiday, the kitchen team has help from real elves, because their delights are absolutely picture (and taste) perfect!
MORE FESTIVE CHEER!
Apart from the grandiose tree lightings and Christmas markets, the city offers a vibrant collection of festive activities from snow white wonderlands, to festive afternoon teas, gingerbread factories and cooking classes! Here are my top picks for this year:
- Festive Afternoon Tea – Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
- Gingerbread Factory – Crowne Plaza Yas Island
- Festive Cooking classes – Sheraton Abu Dhabi Resort
- Winterland Carnival – Yas Island
- Winter Wonderland – Nation Towers
- Yas Marina Christmas: Yas Marina
The shopping spirit during festive season in Abu Dhabi is absolutely delightful! Each mall is fully splashed out with decorations, whether re-creating Santa’s Grotto or the North Pole. Daily activities and visits are offered for the kids, almost every store offers discounts … and is there anything more festive than walking out of the Bath and Body Works store with a bag full of festive scented goodies, with a Starbucks festive cup, in your hand?! I can’t wait!!! 🙂
CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR’S EVE
There is no shortlist in this category, because every venue literally decks the halls when it comes to offers! From lavish lunches, brunches and dinners, there is truly something for everyone (and for their pockets too). New Year’s parties are epic in Abu Dhabi, whether you are in a nightclub partying with some kind of rockstar, or dancing along with samba dancers until the countdown to midnight. The city also puts on a great display of fireworks, no matter what part of town you are in, and this year, there will be a special Katy Perry concert held on Yas Island to welcome 2018!
So, tell me … what are your favourite festive activities in Abu Dhabi, or around the world?
PS: This post does not have any photos, because my Instagram feed will be populated with Festive activities from around the city, very soon – make sure you follow me @msmilic to keep up! 🙂
- Christmas Market at Beach Rotana
- Festive Market and Santa Chase at The Westin
- Yas Marina Christmas
- Festive cooking classes at Sheraton
- Galleria Mall’s Winter Wonderland line up
- Winterland Carnival on Yas Island
- St. Regis Saadiyat Island Tree Lighting
- Winter Wonderland at Nation Towers
- Book tickets to see Katy Perry for New Year’s Eve
Disclaimer: All views are my own and all photographs are © My Pink Diary.